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ADA urges Senate to reject cuts to Medicaid

July 18, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — With health care reform ongoing in the Senate, the ADA is urging legislators to reject "drastic reductions and restructuring" of the Medicaid program.

"Medicaid, our nation's safety-net health insurance program, currently provides vital coverage to over 70 million Americans, including 37 million children," and "about 54 million adults and children have dental coverage under Medicaid," wrote ADA President Gary L. Roberts and Executive Director Kathleen T. O'Loughlin in a July 17 letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

In the letter, Drs. Roberts and O'Loughlin shared that the ADA is committed to ensuring that families have access to comprehensive, affordable health coverage, including oral health coverage," and reminded the senators that poor oral health can have long-term effects on an individual's life.

"Tooth decay remains the most chronic condition among children and adolescents, impacting school performance and attendance. Because it is a progressive, chronic condition, the oral health problems that impact children continue on into adulthood impacting employability, military readiness and overall health status," Drs. Roberts and O'Loughlin wrote.

The ADA noted that untreated dental disease has a "significant economic impact" on our health care system, citing a study by the American Journal of Public Health that found between "4 million Americans went to the emergency room for dental related problems at a cost of $2.7 billion dollars" between 2008 and 2010. And in 2014, ADA Health Policy Institute researchers estimated that emergency room visits for dental conditions occur "every 14 seconds in the United States, costing approximately $863 per visit compared with an average dental office visit cost in 2014 of $240."

"The good news is that since 2000, the percentage of children without dental coverage has been cut in half," said Drs. Roberts and O'Loughlin, noting that 5.4 million adults gained access to dental benefits as part of the Medicaid expansion through 2015.

"The Medicaid program's importance to Americans' oral health cannot be overstated," Drs. Roberts and O'Loughlin said.

Medicaid provides coverage for low-income and disabled children, adults, pregnant women and seniors and "dental care utilization among publicly insured children has steadily increased over the past decade even as increasing numbers of children enroll."

In conclusion, "the ADA is concerned that proposed fundamental changes to Medicaid funding could put the nation's overall oral health at risk."

"Coverage impacts the ability of individuals to access care in the most appropriate, cost-effective setting. The ADA believes that drastic funding cuts and structural changes to the oral health system will undermine the gains that families have made in accessing dental care and ultimately be detrimental to the entire health care system."